30/09/2012

Standing in Faith

Posted in Encouragement, Family, Finding Faith, Musings, Self-Awareness tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , at 9:01 am by The Water Bearer

My Dad was the main one who taught me how to know God, and how to let His Son’s love into my heart so it can shine out from within. We were estranged for many years and only reconnected when I was in my early 20’s. As we began to rebuild our relationship, Dad answered the multitude of questions I threw at him, but I did not simply swallow all his answers whole or unchallenged. I challenged every thing he tried to teach me. I must admit his logic was thorough and convincing and it gave me a foundation for the faith I had not really tried to develop since I was a child.

While Dad taught me how to get to know God, his words fell on the soft soil of my faith which had been there all along. The truth is that my faith was developed along the journey which life has taken me, through difficult times where I have learned hard lessons about myself, lessons which brought me humility. Humility brought me a softer and open heart, an open heart brought me encounters with God, miraculous encounters which called me to trust in Him.

All the times when I have trusted God, needing as much faith as I can muster, He has fulfilled every promise He has ever made to me. Promised outcomes brought me more love and appreciation for Him than I can explain. That love and trust brought me to want to know Him and be closer to Him, to try to understand how I may please Him. This understanding brought me under the guidance of His will. My willingness, mixed with His strength helped move me in obedience to His guidance, and that has brought me to the place of faith where I now stand.

As is common in most faith-walks, many people in my life, family, friends and acquaintances alike, have challenged my faith in one way or another. Countless times I have had to choose between keeping their approval and companionship, or staying strong in my faith and risk it all…

Standing up for my faith doesn’t always involve a debate about religion, it also arises during challenges of life and questions of morals.

I spent many years in my youth blaming others for everything that was going wrong in my life, and I allowed my anger and disgust in someone elses behaviour to permit me to respond or react anyway I saw fit, because it was THEIR fault not mine! This attitude only caused me less peace in my life and more of my own undesirable behaviour.

Luckily for me, my Dad was willing to risk my affection for him by telling me when I was out of line with God. At first I rejected his words and defended against the discomfort I felt, but he was patient and forgiving, and extremely humble. He stuck by me and stayed true, and over time I became very grateful for his loving honesty and help. I wish more than anything that he was still here to do that, although if I slow down and listen, in time I can usually hear a voice in my heart when I need to be pulled back into line.

These days I try hard to be less about blaming others and more about looking at myself and searching my faith for guidance of how I can handle the situation in God’s way. Therefore, this is also what I encourage others to do when we are discussing how they can deal with the challenges life throws their way.

It is sometimes uncomfortable and can cause tension when we are called to stand up for faith and not sit quietly as faithless anarchy flows out around us.

“Thou therefore gird up thy loins, and arise, and speak unto them all that I command thee: be not dismayed at them, lest I dismay thee before them” Jer 1:17 (ASV)

Sometimes it is hard to know when to speak up against something and speak out in faith, or to give grace and not risk offending others. Words of faith are powerful and need to be shared with much responsibility and restraint. It is careless to rub our faith in the face of one whose faith has not yet reached the same level of understanding. Patient, steadfast standing in faith, and a willingness to share the truth as it has been revealed, gains much ground for God. Whereas boasting of our knowledge, criticising, and undermining the obedience of one who has not yet come to understand the freedom of faith, rather than the restrictions of the laws, are all detrimental to the budding flower in the early stages of faith.

“Let us not therefore judge one another any more: but judge this rather, that no man put a stumbling block or an occasion to fall in his brother’s way.” Romans 14:13 (KJV)

In times of challenge where I have been required to stand strong in faith or choose to keep in favour with a person, I think of my Dad and how his truth, while hard to swallow, kept me on the narrow path. I recall the persecution God’s Son willingly took for our salvation and I feel compelled to stand along side Him in faith. I try not to focus on the fear that I may become out of favour with someone.  I have found that people are often disloyal and unloving, they break promises they have made, they can turn on you after years of relationship, they can change how they feel about you at any given moment, from loving and accepting you one day, then belittling and hating you the next, regardless of whether you have stood strong in faith or not.

However God knows, He sees all the times we stand strong, it matters more to Him than anyone here in this place.

So I will always strive to choose my faith. People come and go but the Lord stays with me day and night. He is loyal and faithful to me and in return I do my best to be loyal and faithful to Him. My Loving Father God has never, and will never turn on me, I hope and pray I continue to have the strength of faith to never turn on Him either!

Advertisements

28/08/2012

Lessons in Friendship

Posted in Encouragement, Family, General, Musings, Self-Awareness, Teen Trials tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , at 8:08 am by The Water Bearer

Something I find particularly heartbreaking is when either one of my daughters comes home from school distressed after an incident involving someone they thought was a friend.

It is just awful to view the sorrow in their gorgeous big brown eyes, and the damp eyelashes as evidence of tears shed. I want so desperately to protect my girls from repeating my mistakes, and having to learn the ‘hard way’ about the truths of friendship, yet I realise they still need to learn for themselves in order for these lessons to stick with them throughout life.

I may be slightly biased here but I have tried to teach my girls to treat others with respect and how they would like to be treated in return. Their faithful spirit is evident in they way they treat most people, they want to be forgiving and to believe a ‘problem friend’ is capable of changing into a ‘decent friend’. So they keep putting themselves back in the firing line, realising a little more each time that some friends just continue to mistreat them.

I wonder how long it will take them to firmly value healthy friendships and avoid toxic ones? I was bitten over a thousand times before I realised I had to stop putting myself in the path of destructive, unhealthy relationships.

We parents can aim to keep balanced influence over who our children befriend to some extent, by deciding who we encourage them to spend time with for play dates and sleep overs etc.

Mostly I feel it is so important to be invested in discussions about the experiences they have had with others, and share your own experiences with them.

I try not to be too judgmental, but this can be hard when your perspective has been somewhat tainted by painful memories, and there are many variables to consider when teaching my girls the reasoning I try to apply to my own friendships. I find my self saying things like…

  • Give everyone a chance; Remember that everyone has inner angels and inner enemies.
  • Be yourself and respectfully resist things you would prefer avoiding. (i.e. Don’t be a doormat)
  • Be truthful and loyal and keep Godly principles in mind.
  • Learn to enjoy your own company so you don’t rely too heavily on friendships.
  • Avoid those who throw emotional tantrums when you set up your own boundaries, this is manipulation, stand firm if someone tries it on you.
  • A true friend will respect your boundaries and you need to respect theirs.
  • Try to be aware and keep control of your own possible emotionally manipulative behaviour.
  • Observe how others handle tough situations and whether you admire them or not and why. Consider this when listening to their advice.
  • Ask yourself if they are honest with you and not just tell you what you want to hear.
  • Consider if they encourage you to reach your full potential, that they don’t hold you back with avoidance, distractions and unmotivated tendencies.
  • If they load you up with their problems but refuse to handle them well, take a big step back and don’t get emotionally involved in their issues.
  • If you view them mistreating anyone, you can be sure they will mistreat you as well at some point in time, whether you find out about it or not.
  • If they purposely hurt you, tell them respectfully that you are hurt by their actions.
  • If they can admit how hurtful they were and sincerely apologise, then give them another chance.
  • If they don’t sincerely apologise, then be polite and continue to treat them with respect but keep your distance and your heart protected.
  • If someone is out-rightly cruel and betrays your heart in a serious way, even after an apology, offer forgiveness yet keep your heart guarded, and choose carefully your future encounters with them.

I make a point of mentioning sincere apologies, as I find it impossible to accept a false apology these days; ‘Sorry’ is a word meant to express the ‘sorrow’ of regrettable events, yet it is not a sincere apology unless it is accompanied by, a few other elements, such as:

1. Acceptance of their accountability and the role they played, without placing blame elsewhere.

2. Acknowledgment of your suffering.

3. Agreeing to stop the action or behaviour they are apologising for.

4. Understanding of your guarded heart toward them afterwards.

I have encouraged my girls to share their stories of friendship and betrayal in their prayer journals, so they may look back and reflect to gain a better perspective. I also encourage them to ask God to bring them a trustworthy friend, who will value the time they share as much as each other.

A friend can be such a strong influence as to who we grow up to be, which road we take to get there, and how successful a journey it is. Some will encourage a hard and faulty road, while others will encourage goodness of character, loyalty and healthy companionship. These are the qualities I suggest my girls consider when deciding who to share this journey of life with. I pray fervently for God to keep His hand on them and I trust Him to guide and protect them. I understand the pains of life are the building blocks of a solid foundation of learning and self-awareness and I ask Him to help me be the best example of a Godly parent as I can be when sharing friendship advice with them.

10/06/2012

Sick of the Drama?*

Posted in Encouragement, Family, Musings, Self-Awareness, Teen Trials tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , at 6:02 pm by The Water Bearer

Sometime ago I noticed an underlying hunger for drama in myself and those around me. Any saga involving family or friends made its way around the group like a gasped version of Chinese whispers. Privacy was a joke, nothing was off limits.

I guess there were many reasons why we shared each others sordid secrets, we liked to offer our own judgements, we tried to convince someone to agree with our position, and we all tried to piece together the various versions of the story to figure out what really went on in each others personal lives, that way we could bring it up later if we needed to make a point. I was definitely a culprit of these gossip sessions and we all believed we meant well. A common excuse for this was that we cared. Fair enough I suppose, but there were always divisions between us, a little drama fed more drama, and it became common to stick our noses into situations that we had not been invited into by the one it concerned. Someone was always left feeling ganged up on and betrayed. Surely there has to be a better way to care for each other?

I am the ultimate drama queen, my feelings are amplified and this makes them almost impossible to deal with on my own. I need a sounding board to help me sought through the noise inside my head to discover the bottom line, the truth amongst the lies, so to speak. Yet sharing my secret thoughts with family members and close friends, left me reeling with more concerns about how much damage they could do with what I had shared. It pretty much defeated the purpose of divulging my thoughts in the first place, not much relief to be found, only more drama.

When I was in my 20’s I reunited with my Dad, he and I would talk for hours and hours, dissecting all the trials of life. He was a fabulous sounding board for me, and after a while I began to notice that something was different. He actually kept our private conversations to himself, and in one way the drama began to decrease because my secrets were safe with him. This was a foreign concept for me, he taught me about true loyalty. He gave me sound advice and carefully exposed the painful truth, not simply telling me what I liked to hear. Since then I have tried my best to be as loyal to others as he was for me, I don’t pick up the phone to involve other family members when I am asked advice from one of them, I keep their private thoughts to myself, and I clearly state that I don’t want to get involved if someone tries to drag me into another saga. If it’s not coming direct from the person themselves, then I don’t pay any attention to it. Therefore this helped decrease the amount of drama in another way. Amen!

There is a very real difference between why certain people share their issues. Some actually want advice on how to grow from their troubles, and to decrease the drama that the situation is causing. While others simply thrive on the drama, they want to drag someone else into it with them, or to play the victim and get others to feel sorry for them.

I used to try to help everyone with their crises; I got emotionally involved, I would pray for them and be there for them at every turn, this made me a magnet for every sob story in the vicinity and I was drained. After many years of this I came to see a pattern form. Many of them didn’t take my advice, yet they kept coming to me with their problems. I kept being drawn into their dramatic lives, my heart went out to them time and time again and yet still my advice was not taken on board.

They didn’t want me to help them change their ways, instead they wanted me to make them feel better, to carry them through their problems, they wanted to complain to me and drag me down into their negative perspective. Once it subsided they simply headed straight back into the same situations over and over.

In therapy I learned the term ‘enabler’, meaning – ‘one who enables another to persist in self-destructive behaviour by providing excuses or by helping that individual avoid the consequences of such behaviour’. I realised I was one. I gave attention to those going through hard times and helped absorb their suffering, but I wasn’t helping them to learn how to help themselves, for that they needed to suffer through the consequences of their actions and learn how to change themselves.

In God’s wisdom He allowed me to suffer physical and psychological damage in a car accident and for a long time afterwards I was unable to help anyone else. I was having a hard time getting myself through my own, very real drama, so I turned to God and Godly people for advice and followed it to the letter. I was genuinely willing to do the hard work, to grow and learn from my trials.

I still tried to be supportive for others, but ceased with enabling them. I told them what I believed they needed to do according to God’s ways which would invite God to change their troubles, but that of course was not what many of them wanted from me. These people tried to help me for a little while during my own crisis, but I saw that they fed off my drama and didn’t encourage me to grow with sound advice. In fact the opposite, they tried to distract me from my problems with a good time, and selfish indulgence. Once I noticed this I stood my ground and stuck to my path to grow in faith, as a result these people, the ones who I had carried for so long, turned on me. One by one they disappeared from my life.

It was as if God had picked up my life, given it a good shaking and watched as all the dead weight fell away. I gained a new perspective of how to help, who to help, and who to leave to figure it out themselves. My life became so much lighter, I saved my energy for those who deserved it and was left with true friends and supportive family members, those who encouraged me to be faithful during the tough times, those who kept my secrets, and who listened and applied my advice during their own issues. These wonderfully loyal people have stayed in my life and my relationships with them are true blessings.

I once heard someone say that if you put one crab in a bucket, it will climb out and set itself free. However if you put two crabs in a bucket, one crab will continually pull the other crab back, preventing it from escaping, so that they both end up rotting in the bucket.

I encourage you to look at who you share your bucket with. Are they helping you out or pulling you back? Thank God, I am much happier with the people who I now share my bucket with, and even though I am still a drama queen, I have come to enjoy the peacefulness of less ‘nonsense’ drama in my life.

14/05/2012

The adventures of a social butterfly*

Posted in General, Self-Awareness tagged , , , , , , , , , at 9:26 am by The Water Bearer

One of my pet peeves is wasted time, we are here but a blink and sitting around twiddling my thumbs is just not an option for me. If I have an hour between responsibilities I try to drop in on a friend for a quick cuppa and catch up. I love my friends dearly, and looking into their eyes, sharing in their lives for a few moments is what I like the most. Don’t get me wrong I don’t mind getting on the phone and having a good chin wag as well, but in the rush of life we are becoming more and more prone to keep in touch via social networking and mobile phones, and this lacks the personal touch which I crave. I want to hug people!! I want to allow my intuition to tell me how they really are, I can do that pretty easily most of the time, even on the phone, but face-to-face is a much easier platform to engage with them about what I’m sensing.

If I have made plans to fill my day and the opportunity to get a visit or an invite from a friend arises I will do my best to fit them in. This is getting more and more difficult as life gets busier, but I figure I can run errands and do housework any time, while a chance encounter with a friend may not be so easily rearranged.

I am truly a people-person, I am at my happiest when I have a room full of people whose brains I want to pick and whose lives I want to engage with. People are my teachers, their lives, thoughts, experiences and beliefs are the foundation of my research, and therefore my writing. Your lives and struggles inspire me, please comment in the section available on a blog if you feel you have something to share about the topics I write about. It encourages me deeply to know how others feel and it teaches me more and more. I am educated by the lives of others, not only my own experiences.

While reading a fellow bloggers post this week I stumbled across a fabulous poem, its insight, its humour and the way it was presented were clever and entertaining. It relates to the digital trap of technology that distances us from the touch of others. Enjoy the link below…

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=GAx845QaOck

%d bloggers like this: